It probably was not like that, but it feels like I went right from Dick and Jane to adult literature. Though the quintessential adolescent novel, The Catcher in the Rye, had been published in 1951, when I was about seven, and the one that spoke the most to me, The Member of the Wedding, had been published in 1946, when I was about two, I never read either until I was well beyond my teens. Rather, it was the 1936 Gone with the Wind, published before I was born, that formed my first concept of what constituted a compelling novel, or at least one that had the most meaning for a young displaced person like me.
It was not, therefore, surprising that when I tried my hand at one, it centered not only on my own experience but also on the sweeping societal changes that I liked to read about in books. My novel Nation of Hereos might have been a marketable (but, hopefully, thought-provoking) political thriller had terrorists not attacked the World Trade Center and what I had written not come too close to conveying both the complacency of the average American citizen and the horror now transpiring on my television screen to continue to call “fiction.”
After trashing Hereos, I turned inward. But not entirely, since my new novel, Anna Noon, addressed the profound changes experienced during the post-World War II era in Europe and the United States. What I added were characters based on people (and animals) I had known (or imagined) over the course of my entire life, rearranged time and location to suit the demands of the story and addressed aspects of the storytelling process itself. Very different from what I had tried to do in Heroes. Still, I was pleased that readers of my early drafts called it “cinematic.” A postmodern Gone with the Wind, you might say.